by Pastor Bud Talbert

One virtue that spiritual maturity produces is patient continuance in well doing (Rom 2:7). Paul admonishes the Ephesians to keep alert with all perseverance (6:18 ESV). The term used here means to persist in an undertaking or circumstance. James admonishes his readers not to be forgetful hearers but faithful doers who persevere in obeying what the Word tells them to do. Here the word translated persevere is paramenō, which means to remain in a situation. Stay there! See it through! Keep at it! You can stop when you die!

            With that last encouragement (?) in mind, let’s notice several men in the Old Testament who wanted to quit doing what God had appointed them to do. However, their notion of quitting was unusual. Most pastors I know who want to quit this ministry or that want to simply move somewhere else. But these Old Testament men wanted to move to heaven! They wanted God to allow them to quit by killing them!

            Job’s desire to die is more implied than openly stated. God gives Satan permission to take all Job’s wealth and his ten children (Job 1), and Job responds to this life disaster by worshipping God. Then God gives Satan permission to destroy Job’s health (Job 2), and Job responds (Job 3) by sitting on an ash heap wishing he had never been born (verse 3). But Job becomes more direct in verse 21 when he says that he longs for death and searches for it. Why? He was suffering terribly! His grief is emotional, for he has lost his earthly security and his children. But now every second there is intense physical pain. And as his friends seek to persuade him to repent of whatever sin prompted God to so afflict His servant (and they suggest several!), Job becomes increasingly frustrated with God’s silence. So, Job wanted to quit because he did not understand why God was afflicting him, and because he did not fully appreciate that God was entitled to use his life any way He chose … simply because He is God.

            Moses requested that God take his life because he felt that he could not complete what God had called him to do (Num 11:10-15). The people Moses was leading to the promised land were so stubborn and rebellious that they would not follow the leader God had appointed for them. Perhaps Moses did not understand that his calling was God’s work through him and not his own effort to complete his God-given tasks.

            Elijah was an interesting fellow. After seeing God send fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:38), he ordered the execution of all the prophets of Baal (verse 40). Then he prayed that God would end the three-year drought, which He promptly did (verses 41-45). Then, when “the hand of Yahweh came upon Elijah” he outran Ahab (who was in a chariot!). But as soon as Ahab entered Jezreel (behind Elijah) he told Jezebel that all her Baal prophets were dead. Filled with rage, the queen threatened Elijah’s life. Elijah fled south, sat under as broom tree, and “prayed that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough! Now Yahweh take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” Thinking that his efforts on Mt. Carmel had changed the hearts of the people in the northern kingdom, Elijah was utterly dejected because the threat of Jezebel made it clear that nothing at all had changed. Elijah wanted to quit because he saw his work coming to naught.

            Jeremiah, like Job, cursed the day of his birth (Jeremiah 20:14-18). And like Job, the great prophet suffered grievously. Pashhur put Jeremiah in the stocks, a place of pain and shame. Jeremiah said (20:7), “I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me.” He had pronounced God’s judgment, and yet God withheld it (see verse 8), making His prophet look like a liar. Jeremiah earned the moniker Weeping Prophet and wanted to quit because he was unwilling to wait on God’s timing for His Word to be fulfilled.  

            May God help us to wait patiently for His promises to be fulfilled and to stay with the work He has appointed us.